Body Image Distortion

Body image distortion is a pervasive cultural dysmorphia. According to The Journal of Psychology (2015), body image refers to ‘the subjective personal interpretation of an individual’s body’.[1] Distortion of our body image results from constant exposure to visions of ideal bodies that are ubiquitously portrayed in the media. Comparing our own physical forms with these ideals creates dissatisfaction since ‘there is a mismatch between an individual’s image of his or her own body, particularly body shape and weight, and the body perceived as ideal.’[2]

Disturbances in body image include ‘dissatisfaction with appearance’[3] , most women being dissatisfied with the their figures between the waist and the knees. This is evident in the modern trend for a ‘thigh gap’ and concave stomach.

In order to investigate this bodily dissatisfaction, I asked 50 women which part of their body they would most like to alter. The most frequent response was the waist that those asked desired to reduce and tighten: one participant admitted that they were ‘considering surgery I hate it sooo much.’ Competitors tended to fixate on their stomach, which often becomes bloated or distended during preparation for a show. This means that even if they are extremely lean, competitors still feel big or fat because their stomach is not flat. One woman who I interviewed commented that she ‘hated sitting down because I feared fat rolling over my clothes and walked around holding my stomach in.’

A hatred for uncontrollable bellies was closely followed by legs, particularly thighs; breasts that were either too big or small; glutes that needed to be ‘firmer’; and bingo wings. Three women said that would change everything. Only one participant expressed satisfaction, stating that they would change ‘none of it, I love my body. It’s fully functioning and a nice place to live.’

Responses to my questionnaire also included facial features. Noses, teeth and imperfect skin were deemed less controllable than the rest of the body, which could be moulded through diet and exercise. One competitor claimed that her skin is ‘the only thing [she] can’t control.’ Another commented that she would make her eyelashes longer since she ‘[c]an’t do that by working out and don’t like artificial stuff.’

Fitness competitors often suffer from distortions in body image because they are constantly striving for an unattainable ideal image:

‘competing has helped me feel better about my physique, but I always want more.  Bigger arms, leaner, more muscular back, bigger shoulders, smaller waist, the list goes on.’

When we transform the body, the end product recasts standard of the norm. When we reach our goals, we do not stop, because we are always striving for more.

There is no end to sculpting the body. No end to the distorted perception.

 

 

[1] The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied Volume 149, Issue 2, 2015 , The Sporting Body: Body Image and Eating Disorder Symptomatology Among Female Athletes from Leanness Focused and Nonleanness Focused Sports , Published online: 04 Mar 2014 , Peiling Kong & Lynne M. Harrishttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00223980.2013.846291#tabModule , research by (de Bruin, Oudejans, Bakker, & Woertman, 2011; Tiggemann, 2004. Tiggemann, M. (2004)

[2] The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied Volume 149, Issue 2, 2015 , The Sporting Body: Body Image and Eating Disorder Symptomatology Among Female Athletes from Leanness Focused and Nonleanness Focused Sports , Published online: 04 Mar 2014 , Peiling Kong & Lynne M. Harrishttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00223980.2013.846291#tabModule , research by Hargreaves, D., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). The effect of thin ideal television commercials on body dissatisfaction and schema activation during early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(5), 367–373. doi: 10.1023/a:1024974015581

[3] http://nedic.ca/do-women-low-self-esteen-use-appearance-feel-better [accessed 14/01/15] Josée L. Jarry, Ph.D., Amy Kossert, and Karen Ip, B.A. , Do Women with Low Self-Esteem Use Appearance to Feel Better?

[4] Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders, ed. by Patricia Fallon, Melanie A. Katzman, Susan C. Wooley (The Guilford Press: London, 1994), p.19 from ‘…And Man Created “Woman”; Representations of Women’s Bodies in Western Culture’ by O. Wayne Wooley

[5] Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders, ed. by Patricia Fallon, Melanie A. Katzman, Susan C. Wooley (The Guilford Press: London, 1994), p.66 from ‘”I’ll Die for the Revolution but Don’t Ask Me Not to Diet”: Feminism and the  Continuing Stigmatization of Obesity’ by Esther D. Rothblum

[6] Hilde Bruch, The Golden Cage: The Enigma of Anorexia Nervosa (Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 2001), p.83

[7] FROM VIRTUE TO VICE: NEGOTIATING ANOREXIA

Richard A. O’Connor, Sewanee: The University of the South, Penny Van Esterik

https://cms.sewanee.edu/media/academics/anthropology/pdfs/Anorexia-prospectus-2014.pdf [accessed 6/01/15]

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